The number of federal public defenders in New Mexico could decline because of budget cuts in the coming year.
The Office of the Federal Public Defender might have to lay off as many as 15 lawyers and other staff in New Mexico.
Federal Public Defender districts across the country have been informed that they must reduce their spending by 14 percent in the new fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.
The Federal Public Defender employs 59 people in New Mexico, including 16 trial lawyers in Albuquerque and 13 trial lawyers in Las Cruces.
Defense lawyers say the cuts might end up costing the government more money because more cases will be turned over to higher-paid private attorneys.
Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.